Azalea Drive – by Jane Rockwell (Senior)

Leah’s son and his family had moved into their new home just before Thanksgiving. By Christmas day, you’d have thought they had been there much longer. The unpacked boxes were gone, even from the porch. Everyone toured the house again with pleasure and admiration. Leah especially liked the lighted window celebrating Charlie Brown and friends in their mittens and scarves.
That seemed so long ago. Covid 19 had changed things. On a Saturday afternoon late in April, Leah was touring the yard via Face Time with her granddaughter Emma.  She and her parents were just beginning to discover what they had there, as buds opened and leaves filled in. There were several azaleas, some familiar and some more exotic.
“Look, Grandma. This one has freckles.”
“Go closer to the flower, Emma. You’re showing me the sky.”
Sometimes her parents, assembling a rocking chair on the porch, came into view. Climbing the steps, Emma pointed to a large metal pot. She explained this was her “collection.” The jumpy phone landed on small rocks, twigs, leaves, a bit of moss, and a few freckled blossoms.
“I’m going to make a fairy garden–with things from Nature.”
Leah wished she could actually be there on this perfect day in spring; sharing in their delight, pleasant work, laughter, and hugs. But there was immeasurable pleasure in viewing the yard through the eyes of a five-year old, from treetops to the beginnings of a fairy garden. Emma was like a documentary filmmaker, focusing on what interested her most.
There was another “azalea drive” forty years ago in late April; a moment of urgency, complete clarity. It was the day Leah’s son was born. On the way to the hospital, the anxious couple rode down a street lined with red-pink azaleas. It was very early and the morning seemed to belong to them. Leah focused on the azaleas.  They calmed and astonished her. Azaleas were not unusual in the South. She saw them with fresh eyes today, sparkling and singing. It was just the beginning of wonder.
Learn more about the contest which inspired this story:  Fleur 2020-05 Azalea
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